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Myth or Reality?: Factional Politics, U.S.-China Relations, and Mao Zedong's Mentality in His Sunset Years, 1972–1976

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Official Chinese Communist historiography claims that the “Gang of Four” interfered in China's foreign policymaking, especially China's relations with the United States from the time of President Richard Nixon's visit to China in February 1972 to October 1976 when the Gang of Four was ousted. Seizing on the difference in thinking between Chinese paramount leader Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai on the criticism of the “Ultra-left Trend of Thought and Anarchism” in Chinese politics in December 1972, the radicals influenced Mao to put a stop to Zhou's effort to eliminate the interference of the ultra-leftism in diplomatic affairs. Taking advantage of Mao's criticism of a report entitled “A Preliminary View on the Talks between Nixon and Brezhnev” published in New Information, an internal journal of the Foreign Ministry, the radicals forced Zhou into a very difficult political crisis in July– August 1973. Zhou suffered a severe political blow when Mao, based on erroneous reports, concluded that Zhou had made mistakes during his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in November 1973. The Chinese historiography claims that the Gang of Four used all these so-called “mistakes” as pretexts in order to purge Zhou and to impede the improvement in U.S.-China relations. Mao was dissatisfied with Zhou, but had no plan to get rid of him. It was Mao who eventually rescued Zhou from these troubled political moments.


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